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Heavron: Derry can't afford to repeat old mistakes

By John Campbell

He may still be wet behind the ears in terms of inter-county experience but Derry's shooting star Shane Heavron lays it firmly on the line in the build-up to Sunday's Ulster Championship quarter-final blockbuster against neighbours Tyrone.

The 22-year-old Magherafelt clubman, who marked his debut for the Oak Leafs with two goals against Antrim in the Dr McKenna Cup back in January, believes that unless his side tread carefully they could make a quick exit from the provincial series.

"We played Tyrone in Omagh a while back and our display was littered with silly mistakes," blasted Heavron. "Some of the mistakes we made would have driven you insane. We started well, but stupid errors, bad passes and poor decisions took their toll.

"You just hope this won't happen again on Sunday. I suppose you need luck as well and the break of the ball to go your way."

While Derry were lurching out of last year's Championship, Heavron was in the United States, thoughts of high-intensity action far from his mind.

But the lure of a place in the Derry side and the fact that several of his club colleagues are part of Damian Barton's panel persuaded him to commit.

And Barton's own infectious enthusiasm also proved a magnet for the UUJ student.

"There would be times you would be on the pitch and you turn round and Damian is nearly standing beside you!" grinned Heavron.

"But you really need that in a way because you don't want the other team hearing what he's saying. I suppose you could look at that as one of the problems which happened throughout the league but I wouldn't put too much emphasis on it.

"I think it was more about the performances from everybody that caused the problems. I don't know if we made enough improvements during the break in the league. This really gave us a wake-up call which is one positive."

Heavron's frustration following a disappointing league campaign is still palpable but he nonetheless feels that the lessons absorbed from some games in particular could stand the side in good stead against the Red Hands.

"We had thoughts of promotion after our first two games, especially when we beat Cavan on their own ground," explained Heavron.

"But the way we played against Armagh and Laois in particular, you would have to say that we did not deserve to gain promotion."

"I think we dropped off a level. We weren't playing anywhere near the level we should have been playing at. Mistakes and errors cost us dearly."

His zest for the ball and a willingness to become immersed in the action in any area of the field make him something of a manager's dream.

A natural half-forward, he has been asked to play in the inside line on occasions and, not surprisingly, has firm views on this.

"I'd rather be out the field a bit. I wouldn't mind if I was starting inside and then coming out. Even for my club I like being around midfield or wing half- forward - somewhere where I will see plenty of the ball," he said. "Inside you are waiting and waiting. And then if the ball doesn't come in you get frustrated. If you're out the field you can at least affect what is happening."

But while his spirit of adventure is likely to remain unabated, he is resigned to undertaking what he considers to be one of the more mundane chores.

"In the modern game forwards must track back and tackle," pointed out Heavron. "That's the bad thing! I'd rather be out kicking handy passes. When I came into the Derry squad I wasn't used to tackling.

"I had to try and get it into my game some way, and with Tony Scullion about you have to tackle. He has to get tackling into every drill. He's a legend here. If you want to be a county footballer you have to sacrifice elements of your individual game."

His brother Danny is now also a Derry regular and Shane admits that it is "a big thing" to be playing alongside him.

He added: "We were both playing at midfield for the club for first time and that was great, a big thing. Hopefully, things will come right for us all on Sunday."



Ulster SFC quarter-final:

Celtic Park, Sunday, 2.00pm

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